From Hater to Evangelist: My AR-15 Pistol Saga of Eating Crow


Once there was a time when I laughed at the notion of the AR-15 pistol. That time of laughing has passed, so if you enjoy watching others publicly eat crow, read on.

AR-15 PistolMy brother, Stephen, and I have been debating the merits of AR 15 pistols for some time, so let’s rewind this a bit. My first intro to an AR-15 pistol was some years ago at a gun store that sold NFA items like short barreled rifles (SBRs). I saw an AR-15 pistol and asked where the buttstock was. The shop keeper enlightened me, but I had lingering doubts.

Then I ran across a Kel-Tec PLR-16. It’s not exactly an AR-15 pistol, but it’s close enough in the ergonomics to fit the genre. My biggest question was, “How do you shoot that thing – accurately?” The answer I was given by the gun’s owner was a bit unconvincing: Put a single point sling on it, raise it so that your sight picture becomes apparent while pushing the gun away from you. The tension on the sling will make it stable and good to go. Right. Then he did the opposite. Holding the gun at belly button height, he fired a dozen rounds or so down range at a paper target at an indoor range. Credibility, zero. Even with ear pro on, I decided to leave the range as the muzzle blast he generated was just as ridiculous as his shooting stance.

While my interest in shorter lighter gun configurations was real, the downsides to an AR-15 pistol in my mind were several. For example, the buffer tube sticking out of the rifle all by itself looked silly. I know, looks don’t matter as long as it does its job. And while that’s true, when it comes to spending discretionary dollars, looks DO matter, and the market bears that out.

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Awkward looks in this case can translate to awkward ergonomics. When I looked at that first AR-15 pistol in the gun store, stocks were sill longer and bulkier than what’s available today. The mutated shortened pistol configuration was strange to hold, and awkward to use. No chance of anything resembling a proper cheek weld there. And I once believed that unless you perfect your cheek weld, you couldn’t shoot accurately beyond ten yards. Where I came up with that, I don’t know. Maybe some internet commando forum back in the day…

AR Pistol Hog HuntThat was a few years ago, and much has changed since then, but not my interest in SBRs. Seriously, I can’t see anything magical about a sixteen inch barrel. The rules are the rules, but for practical purposes a shorter barrel can be a real plus. Put yourself on a four wheeler ATV chasing after pigs, heading for a deer blind or running down coyotes. I’ve slung a 16” AR while riding four wheelers, and it’s a pain. Minus a few inches and we’d be better off, but short of an AR-15 pistol, we’re talking about the expense and rules of access and transport for an NFA registered SBR. Better than not having a short barrel in that case, but a far cry from ideal.

The thing that changed my thinking about an AR-15 pistol was a great looking 300 Blackout version from King’s Arsenal. Yes, it was looks that turned my head and opened my mind. It was the first time I’d met Jordan King, owner of King’s Arsenal. He had a booth at the first ever Silencers Are Legal shoot in Dallas in 2012. Call me shallow, but the smooth sided upper on the billet lower all tricked out with a short barrel and a foam covered buffer tube was magnetic. King talked me through the genius of his creation and then invited me to go shoot it. Much to my surprise, I could hit Tannerite at 100 yards using an Eotech sight! Now I was interested.

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Maybe you know the adage, a chicken is interested in making breakfast, but the pig is committed. Shooting with just a short buffer tube was still a bit awkward, though the foam cover was a step forward. So, I was interested. Then my friend Nathan Dudney at DRT Ammo got an AR Pistol that he raved about. Nathan is a smart guy whose job involves dealing with velocities and terminal ballistics. You certainly give up velocity with a short barrel, but Nathan’s enthusiasm got me researching. What I found was that at most common distances I’d shoot at while hunting pigs or in defensive scenarios, I had nothing to worry about from lost velocity with modern ammo.

What pushed me over the edge was a picture sent to me by another good friend, Keith Pitts, founder of Accurate Armory. I’ve known Keith longer than SHWAT™ has been around, and have confidently run his ARs for years. Keith had build an AR pistol for himself, and sent me a picture of it riding easily alongside in a vehicle. I replied with a “must have” kind of note and he built me a beauty to my own specifications. It was cool, but when I added the SigTac pistol brace, it became amazing. Today, Keith prefers the QD Buffer Tube Cover from Thordsen Customs, which I’ve not yet tried out. In any event, with the pistol assembled, it was time to go hunting!

AR15 PistolThe hunt would be a night hunt, so I chose the Wilcox RAPTAR Lite ES to work in conjunction with a helmet mounted PVS-14. Walking the fields of west Texas in the dark with that considerably lighter than usual configuration was great. My buddy Jared and I were in and out of my jeep looking for pigs. The short length was phenomenal for vehicle entry and egress, not to mention storage when we hopped in to drive to another field. Pigs died that night, and I enjoyed using my .556 AR pistol immensely (read the whole story here).

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So once a “hater” I guess I’m now an evangelist. The advantages of a well configured AR pistol are clear. Storage, ease of vehicle entry and egress, weight, maneuverability, they’re all there. From the dead hog pictures, you can see the loss of velocity wasn’t an issue. You can add a silencer and still not be ridiculously long. One of the greatest benefits of an AR pistol over an SBR is the ability to travel outside your state without a permission slip from the ATF. Today, I’d be hard pressed to be more enthusiastic about the platform. I’m planning to add an upgraded trigger and perhaps a Gen 3 Law Tactical folding stock adapter for the ultimate in compact AR platform guns. In my opinion, everyone ought to get set up with an AR Pistol. So Stephen wins the debate, but now I have a sweet AR pistol and he doesn’t. Yet. And that’s how I like to eat my crow!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>